Your local fishing club needs you and you need it.
I've just rejoined my fishing club, Tatapouri in Gisborne. It's about time — I had been riding on the coat-tails of my parents' family membership there for so long it'd become embarrassing.
The club's a popular organisation with 4500 members, bearing in mind that the Gisborne District has only 43,000 people, which means that more than 10 per cent of the local population has signed up to a recreational fishing club. Awesome.
Walking through the doors it's not hard to see why. It's in a brilliant location on the water with great views of the harbour. There's a family-friendly atmosphere and well-priced meals and drinks.
But a real fishing club needs two extra elements to make it complete.
It needs a handful of old sea dogs propping up a bar leaner with better fishing stories than you and it needs decent fish moulds on the walls to let you know how small the fish you catch actually are, and what's really out there in those waters.
Tatapouri has both of these in spades, with arguably one of the best collections of mounted fish in the country. It also has a couple of characters so legendary they should also one day be wall-mounted for posterity.
So why join a club?
For a start you won't be alone. There are 56 Sport Fishing Council-affiliated clubs nationwide with more than 33,000 members. There is also the smaller New Zealand Angling & Casting Association clubs. All the clubs now work together. Joining a local club gets you access to these other places and characters. Being a member also allows you to enter fish for national and international records and if you are out of town and happen to land a fish of a lifetime, the local club will give you a "courtesy weigh" . . . if you ask the weigh-master nicely.
Another important part of joining a fishing club is that $11 of your fee goes towards helping manage recreational fishing nationwide. Another $9 goes to the Sport Fishing Council to manage things like marlin tagging, fishing nationals and Hiwi the Kiwi (which introduces schoolkids to the joy of fishing). The remaining $2 goes to the New Zealand Marine Research Foundation. Most fishing research in New Zealand has a commercial slant, so the foundation does important work looking at the recreational sector. It allows me to then cite their work to tell you things like there are 700,000 of us recreationally fishing each year, spending $946 million dollars doing it, which generates $1.7 billion dollars in economic activity. In fact, if it was listed on the NZ stock exchange, the direct spending by anglers would put the sector among the country's top 40 companies. Decent research like this helps make the case to better protect the pursuit that is such an intrinsic part of the Kiwi lifestyle.
It's this lifestyle that draws people to support local clubs. Here, they build camaraderie between members, young and old. It's a great place to help socialise kids around alcohol in a positive environment, and of course it's a treasure trove of fishing tips, secret spots, and fantastic yarns about "how it used to be" by some of the salty old nuggets.
I know most clubs would be happy to see some new faces, so apply within.
● Clarke Gayford hosts Fish of the Day, Wednesdays, 8pm, on Prime.